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UKRAINE UPDATE: 20 NOVEMBER 2023

Russia steps up air attacks on Kyiv infrastructure; troops push back Kremlin forces on Dnipro River bank

Russia steps up air attacks on Kyiv infrastructure; troops push back Kremlin forces on Dnipro River bank
A drone photo shows trucks queued at the Polish-Ukrainian border in Medyka, southeastern Poland, on 16 November 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Darek Delmanowicz)

An unspecified ‘infrastructure target’ in the Kyiv region was damaged by Russian drones in a second night of stepped-up air attacks by Kremlin forces.

In the Zaporizhzhia region, 63 settlements lost power on Saturday following shelling, according to the defence ministry, while in the eastern Donetsk region damages from Russian artillery attacks caused power cuts to almost 21,000 consumers.

Moscow-appointed occupation authorities said they were fighting back near the left or eastern bank of the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine, a day after Ukraine’s president lauded progress by Kyiv’s troops in the region.

A rally in the rouble that’s propelling it towards the strongest since July is the latest piece of Russia’s economic jigsaw to fall into place before a widely expected tilt by Vladimir Putin at another presidential term in March elections.

Ukraine ready to evacuate drivers stuck at Polish border

Ukraine has launched an effort to support truck drivers stuck for days at three Ukrainian-Polish cross-border points because of a strike by Polish truckers. 

The infrastructure ministry along with the nations’ transport associations had assigned special staff to help the drivers, Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Sunday on Facebook.   

The lines of trucks waiting at the border stretched from 10km to 30km, Kubrakov said. 

Checkpoints at Yahodyn, Rava-Ruska and Krakivets now had direct coordinators on site whose key task was to provide drivers with food, water, medicine and fuel. Some 11,000 food kits had already been delivered. 

“The ministry will facilitate the evacuation of drivers to the territory of Ukraine if such a need arises,” Kubrakov said. 

Polish truckers began blocking the three crossings on 6 November, causing as many as 20,000 vehicles to get stuck on either side of the border. 

Read more: Truckers to pressure EU in protest over Ukraine transport deal

Their action centres on what truckers from Poland and several eastern members of the European Union see as unfair competition from Ukraine created by concessions that followed Russia’s invasion in early 2022.

Russia hits Kyiv infrastructure in second night of drone strikes

An unspecified “infrastructure target” in the Kyiv region was damaged by Russian drones in a second night of stepped-up air attacks by Kremlin forces. 

Ukraine’s air defence said it shot down 15 of 20 Shaheed drones launched from Kursk in southern Russia on the nation’s northern and central regions, including the capital. Air alerts sounded for several hours. No injuries were immediately reported.   

The latest strikes followed drone attacks and artillery shelling on Friday night that damaged energy facilities in Ukraine’s south and east, with power cut off to thousands of households.

Some 2,000 consumers lost electricity after the power grid was damaged in the Odesa region, the power producer DTEK said on Telegram. Drone strikes also damaged an oil depot in the region, the energy ministry said on Facebook.

In the Zaporizhzhia region, 63 settlements lost power on Saturday following shelling, according to the ministry, while in the eastern Donetsk region damages from Russian artillery attacks caused power cuts to almost 21,000 consumers.

Rouble bends to Putin’s will in nod to wartime election economics

A rally in the rouble that’s propelling it toward the strongest since July is the latest piece of Russia’s economic jigsaw to fall into place before a widely expected tilt by Vladimir Putin at another presidential term in March elections.

The currency’s reversal of fortunes since early October has brought it to around 90 per dollar, a level near to the average for next year forecast by the Economy Ministry. The recent appreciation was among the key factors that acted as a check on inflation, according to Bloomberg Economics, which now expects a slowdown after price growth likely peaked in September.

The exchange rate has increasingly emerged as a barometer of the economy’s health amid sweeping international sanctions as Russia closes in on two years of its war against Ukraine. It’s also a critical variable for a budget that will allocate more to the military next year than toward any other single item. 

Dragged down by plummeting export proceeds and heavy government spending, the rouble in October briefly hurtled past the psychologically important level of 100 per dollar. The depreciation has spurred the central bank to double official borrowing costs so far this year to 15%, including an emergency interest-rate hike in August. 

But setbacks didn’t stop until the government clawed back more dollars by restoring some capital controls on major exporters. It was a decision made because Russia needed “the rouble a little stronger,” Putin said last month.

Buoyed by the stiffer restrictions, alongside rate hikes and crude around $80 a barrel, the rouble has been the world’s best performer against the dollar since early October. It’s gained over 4% so far this month versus the US currency.  

Russia says it’s fighting back near Dnipro River’s eastern bank

Moscow-appointed occupation authorities said they were fighting back near the left or eastern bank of the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine, a day after Ukraine’s president lauded progress by Kyiv’s troops in the region.

“The Kherson’s region’s left bank. Our warriors,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in a posting to X, formerly Twitter, on Friday. “I thank them for their strength and for moving forward.”  

Zelensky’s comment seemed designed to emphasise what the nation’s Marine Corps called successful operations this week, including securing several new positions. 

The potential progress is in contrast to the recent stepped-up assaults by Russian forces in Ukraine’s east, including around Bakhmut and Avdiivka, and what Ukraine’s top commander recently called a stalemate as the war moves into another winter.

Kyiv’s troops have “managed to gain a foothold” in several locations on the Dnipro front, the marines said on Facebook, using similar wording to a remark earlier in the week by Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office.

Kyiv’s troops appeared to have advanced near Krynky, about 30km northeast of Kherson and about 2km from the Dnipro’s banks, said the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

Vladimir Saldo, the Russia-installed governor of the part of the Kherson region that Moscow controls, said this week that Ukrainian forces had crossed the Dnipro and that additional troops had been brought in to control the threat, Reuters reported. 

Russian forces destroyed two Ukrainian boats and an anti-aircraft auto-cannon near Kyrnky, Tass reported on Saturday, citing occupation authorities in Kherson.

At least 225,000 lose power amid raging storm in Siberia 

Windstorms that lashed several regions of Siberia led to massive power outages on Sunday, leaving some 225,000 Russians without electricity. 

Winds as high as 108km/h led to outages at power grid facilities in the Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Altai, Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk regions as well as Khakasia, Russia’s energy ministry said. 

Storms also caused train delays and the shutdown of some highways, according to media reports. Three people died and 18 were injured, and the roofs of 150 houses were damaged in Kemerovo region, Tass reported, citing the press office of the local government. DM

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